Do You Have to be From a Musical Background to Make it in Music?

‘It’s all about the connections’ is something we hear frequently when it comes to careers, regardless of the industry – but how true is it of music? Becoming a successful musician doesn’t come from nothing, and we’re all familiar with input vs output, but are common misconceptions about musician’s backgrounds preventing potential new talent from dipping their toes in the pool? After a few months of working with London’s most talented jazz musicians for our upcoming documentary, How to Make a Living in Jazz, we are now well versed in beginnings.

You Don’t Have to Come from Music
Whilst it might be useful to come from a musical family and musical background, we have found that it is not necessary for success in the musical industry. Christos picked up the trumpet at random as part of his first school’s music programme. Ben also did not have a musical background, but his school had a fantastic music programme and were huge advocates of jazz, allowing him to experience that genre of music early on.

You Don’t Have to Come from Money
When you think of success in small industries as a career in the future, you might think that great names and great schools are the only way to go. The problem is the price tag attached. Through speaking to three young musicians from widely different backgrounds, we have discovered a plethora of scholarships and funding options available for young people. Chatting to your teachers and tutors and researching music scholarships on the web are the first place to start.

Connections Come in all Shapes and Sizes
Despite many differences in background, hometown and jazz influences, there was one thing that stood out to us in all the boys’ stories – their connections. You don’t have to know someone with a jazz club to make a name for yourself (though that would help!). Teachers, teachers’ connections, fellow musicians and youth clubs all have fantastic connections with a whole network of their own to tap into. It would seem that to make a living in jazz, you have to be comfortable asking for help when you need it because someone always knows someone.

Find out more about how backgrounds do and don’t affect careers in the music industry in our upcoming documentary, How to Make a Living in Jazz.